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5 December 2013 11:26 am ,
Vol. 342 ,
An animal rights group known as the Nonhuman Rights Project filed lawsuits in three New York courts this week in an...
Researchers have been hot on the trail of the elusive Denisovans, a type of ancient human known only by their DNA and...
Thousands of scientists in the Russian Academy of Sciences (RAS) are about to lose their jobs as a result of the...
Dyslexia, a learning disability that hinders reading, hasn't been associated with deficits in vision, hearing, or...
Exotic, elusive, and dangerous, snakes have fascinated humankind for millennia. They can be hard to find, yet their...
Researchers have sequenced and analyzed the first two snake genomes, which represent two evolutionary extremes. The...
Snake venoms are remarkably complex mixtures that can stun or kill prey within minutes. But more and more researchers...
At age 30, Dutch biologist Freek Vonk has built up a respectable career as a snake scientist. But in his home country,...
- 5 December 2013 11:26 am , Vol. 342 , #6163
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ScienceShot: Breathless Orb
21 November 2012 1:25 pm
Data gathered when the dwarf planet Makemake passed in front of a distant star last year are shedding new light on the icy orb's size, shape, and atmosphere—or, more precisely, its lack of one. Named for a god of the Rapa Nui culture of Easter Island, Makemake (artist's concept, above) orbits in the frigid realm far beyond Pluto and was about 7.7 billion kilometers from Earth when the brief eclipse occurred. As the dwarf planet's shadow passed across eight telescopes at five sites in central South America, it blocked light for intervals ranging from 59 seconds to 66 seconds, suggesting that Makemake is a 1500-by-1430-km ellipsoid, researchers report online today in Nature. Because the amount of light reaching the telescopes dropped abruptly at the beginning of the eclipse, rather than gradually, and rose sharply at the end of the event, the team suggests that Makemake has no global atmosphere—or, at best, a wisp of methane atmosphere with a surface pressure no more than 12-billionths that of Earth.
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